lentil, squash and mushroom salad on platter with serving spoon

Eating high protein plant-based meals at lunch helps fend off the dreaded 3pm slump. Here’s 11 vegan lunch recipes packed with bold flavors.

Yes, it’s true…all plant foods have protein. But not all plant foods are high protein plant foods like lentils. One potato has 3 grams of protein. A cup of raw spinach has just shy of 1 gram or protein. It’s a common misconception in the vegan and plant-based community that you don’t have to pay any attention to plant-based protein at meal time. That’s why I focus on creating plant-based recipes that consider protein as part of creating balanced nourishment.

As a registered dietitian, it is not uncommon that folks will come to me feeling tired or craving sugar all of the time while transitioning to a plant-based diet and one of the most common causes of these symptoms is not getting enough protein. Why? Because adequate protein at a meal helps slow down the rate at which blood sugars rise, helping to keep blood sugars – and energy levels! – at an even keel. Important minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium also tend to follow protein in plant foods. It’s also why I’m also big on these high protein vegan breakfast recipes too. Because while it’s true that you don’t need a ton of protein, eating nothing but pasta and salad 24/7 isn’t going to cut it.

How much protein do I actually need?

We don’t need a lot of protein to meet our minimum basic requirements, which are 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. In pounds, that’s 0.36 grams per pound. So, for a 150lb person, your requirements are 54 grams of protein daily. For a 200lb person, that’s 72g of protein. Considering that 2 pieces of sprouted grain toast with natural peanut butter nets you like 18 grams of protein, it’s pretty easy to do. It’s also easy not to do if you are eating a lot of baked goods and not a lot of whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

I find it interesting that in the plant-based world, we stubbornly stick to this minimum recommendation when it comes to protein. Admitting that you want to put higher protein plant foods on your plate does not diminish the health, ethical or environmental benefits of eating plant-based. It just means you’re interested in eating a nutrient-dense, nourishing diet! With that in mind, know that some folks feel like they thrive on less protein while others (including me!) feel better eating more. What’s more? Perhaps 0.5g per pound of body weight…up to a maximum of maybe 80-90 grams for a non-athlete. This would be 75 grams for the 150lb person and 80-90 grams for the 200lb person. More…but not an unrealistic amount!

Most important thing? Listen to your body. And don’t count your macros…it sucks the joy out of eating (and living!).

Instead, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or an omnivore, I recommend that you strive to create meals centred on the plate method: half a plate of fruits and vegetables, quarter plate of starchy veg like potatoes or whole grains and quarter plate of a higher protein food like tofu, tempeh or legumes. You don’t have to get there all the time – sometimes, you just want a big ol bowl of pasta! – but doing it often will ensure you’ve got balanced nutrition.

Or, you could just enjoy these high(er) protein plant-based lunch ideas and not sweat the macros!

11 Plant-Based Lunch Ideas Rich in Protein

Here are some healthy plant-based meals that I love. A few can be made in the morning and many are perfect for a weekly batch prep (or make a double batch for dinner one night and eat for lunch the rest of the week!)

Protein-Packed Pea and Mint Pasta | Nutrition Stripped

Looking for a protein-packed pasta dish that’s plant-based, gluten-free and dairy-free friendly? This pea and mint pasta is a delicious entree with bright flavors from fresh mint, lemon, and sweet peas. Top it with your favorite coconut yogurt or sour cream, and you’re good to go.
Get the recipe
bowl of vegan chili with spoon

Vegan Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

4.50 from 14 ratings
This flavorful and comforting dish is a crowd pleaser with a few secret ingredients that keep you coming back for more.
Get the recipe
vegetable wrap on plate

One Pot Quinoa and Black Bean Wraps – Oh She Glows

With two toddlers running wild around this joint, my time for cooking meals seems to be dwindling away. People tend to assume that I have these perfect, from-scratch meals on the table every night, and to be honest, at this stage in our lives we’re still very much in survival mode. I’m pretty gentle…
Get the recipe
vegan black bean burrito

Healthy Vegan Black Bean Breakfast Burritos

5 from 1 rating
This vegan breakfast burrito recipe is the perfect way to start your day! Think black beans, sweet potatoes, spinach and more, for plenty of fibre and protein to set you up for success. A terrific plant-based breakfast, these breakfast burritos are made without tofu, and take just 30 minutes to make. Recipe yields 6 breakfast burritos, and they freeze wonderfully!
Get the recipe

Vegan Chickpea Tuna Salad | Sweet Potato Soul

Chickpea tuna is the perfect summer recipe for any occasion from daily lunches, to beach days, to a Forth of July cookout. Only takes a few minutes to make!
Get the recipe
cobb salad with serving spoons and water glass

Vegan Cobb Salad with The BEST Dressing

5 from 3 ratings
This easy vegan Cobb salad recipe features the best tangy red wine vinaigrette dressing and salty, smoky, marinated tempeh bacon! With loads of chopped veggies, it's a great nutrient-packed lunch or dinner.
Get the recipe

Quick Smoky Red Lentil Stew | The First Mess

Lentils are such a versatile protein-rich plant food! Eat as a stew, add to a grain bowl or even a wrap. Make a pot on Sunday and enjoy all week.
Get the recipe
sandwich with tofu and herbs on a plate with a jar of pickles and hot sauce

Tangy Tofu Vegan Banh Mi Recipe

5 from 3 ratings
Tangy, sweet, salty and spicy, this vegan tofu banh mi recipe has it all. I’ve packed this flavorful vegan sandwich with sweet and salty hoisin-glazed tofu, spicy quick-pickled veggies and lots of refreshing herbs. Enjoy!
Get the recipe

Warm Chickpea Bowls with Lemony Yogurt

Here’s a low-effort dinner bowl that comes together in less than 30 minutes. Feel free to swap out the cauliflower for broccoli, brussels sprouts, or your favorite root vegetable. Just use plant-based Greek yogurt to make this dish fully vegan!
Get the recipe
spinach quesadilla on a plate with black fork, jar of pesto and cashew cream

Protein-Packed Vegan White Bean & Spinach Quesadilla

4.87 from 15 ratings
These cheesy, creamy vegan quesadillas with white bean and spinach are flavourful, filling and take just 10 minutes to make! It’s an easy and nourishing meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Get the recipe
lentil, squash and mushroom salad on platter with serving spoon

Roasted Shiitake Lentil Salad (& More Plant-Based Lunches!)

This roasted shiitake and lentil salad is hearty, richly flavored and super satisfying Plus, check out 9 more plant-based lunch ideas high in protein.
5 from 1 rating
Leave a Review »
Pin Print

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 cup dry French lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound shiitake and cremini mushrooms, cleaned and halved
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for squash
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 cups frozen butternut squash, or leftover roasted squash
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • pinch dried chile flakes
  • 2 handfuls arugula or baby kale
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • salt and pepper, for seasoning

Garlicky Turmeric Dressing

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cloves roasted garlic, or ½ – 1 clove raw, micrograted or crushed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • In a medium pot, bring French lentils to a boil with bay leaves until cooked but al dente about 15 – 20 minutes. Rinse, drain and season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, spread mushrooms and onions on baking sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and thyme. Roast for 12-15 minutes, until mushrooms gain colour but before they start to wilt too much. Season with salt and pepper.
  • If using frozen squash, using a pot fitted with a steamer basket, steam butternut squash until warm (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat. Place leftover or cooked frozen squash in a large bowl and toss in 1 teaspoon oil, maple syrup, chili flakes, salt and pepper. (No steamer basket? Bring 1 inch of water to a boil and then toss in squash for just a minute or two max)
  • Meanwhile, whisk up dressing ingredients – olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, maple syrup, turmeric, garlic, salt and cumin – in a small bowl.
  • In a large bowl, add mushrooms, lentils, sunflower seeds and greens to squash. Pour over dressing, and gently toss to coat. Season with more salt and pepper as desired.

Notes

No roasted garlic on hand? Don’t want to use raw garlic? Take 2 cloves, in their skin and roast up with the mushrooms and onions. When ready, pop (carefully!) cloves out of the skin and into the dressing.
This salad will keep well – without the greens – for 3-4 days in the fridge so it’s great for meal prep. You can add fresh greens into the salad daily so they don’t lose their oomph!